U.S. Justice Department: ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Microsoft antitrust case

“The Department of Justice issued a news release this morning saying, ‘competition and consumers have benefited from the final judgments entered because of the Department’s antitrust enforcement efforts against Microsoft,'” Benjamin J. Romano reports for The Seattle Times.

“The Justice Department was joined by a handful of states. But several others, known as the California group, disagreed,” Romano reports. “As reported by Bloomberg News, antitrust regulators from California and five other states said in a filing today that Microsoft still maintains a monopoly over personal computer operating system software and some provisions of the settlement have yielded ‘little, if any, tangible pro-competitive results.'”

“The Justice Department cited several examples of middleware competitors — including Web browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox, Opera, and Apple’s Safari; and multimedia players from Apple and Adobe — to support its assertion that the final judgment has protected competition,” Romano reports.

“It’s important to note — and the Justice Department does — that the settlement was only aimed at preserving competition in this middleware software category. It was not an attempt to roll back Microsoft’s monopoly in operating system software,” Romano reports.

Full article here.

Yet another travesty atop the travesty.

In the autumn of 1998, Apple’s recovery under Jobs was still fragile, its relationship with Microsoft forever precarious. If the DOJ had any prayer of persuading the company to throw caution aside and sign up for the trial, [Gary Reback, lawyer and antitrust specialist,] was clearly the man to see. In the mad scramble for fresh evidence and plausible witnesses, whatever lingering resentments Klein harbored toward the monomaniacal lawyer had receded. Reback was simply too useful, too plugged-in and switched-on, to be ignored. In a series of phone calls that September, Klein told Reback that he desperately wanted the Apple story to be part of the trial – and he wanted Jobs to be the one to tell it. Though the DOJ’s witness list was shaping up nicely, Klein was concerned that it lacked star power, featuring as it did only one big-name CEO – Jim Barksdale. Klein told Reback, “We have an Übermensch problem.”

Jobs was certainly Über, but no one had ever accused him of being a mensch. Visionary, volatile, volcanic, and vain, Apple’s CEO had made no secret of his skepticism about the DOJ’s capacity to prosecute Microsoft. “The government is bullshit! The government is bullshit!” he’d barked when a government lawyer visited him that spring to ask for his help in building the case. “You guys have done nothing, you haven’t figured it out, you’ve been too slow, you’ll never change anything. This is an incredibly sensitive time for Apple. Why should I jeopardize the future of my company when I have no faith that the government is going to do anything real?”

To Jobs, “real” meant one thing: breaking Microsoft up. For all his doubts about the DOJ’s competence, he was now grudgingly impressed by the government’s progress. In late September, after several lengthy talks with Reback, his friend Bill Campbell, and a number of DOJ intermediaries in the Valley, Jobs agreed to have a conversation with Klein about the possibility of testifying. When the two men connected by phone, with Jobs on vacation in Hawaii, he wasted no time in getting to the point. He wanted to hear Klein’s thinking on remedies.

Are you going to do something serious? Jobs demanded. Or, he asked, “Is it going to be dickless?”Wired, “The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth,” Issue 8.11 – November 2000

78 Comments

  1. Citing Safari as evidence of competition in Windows middleware is a bit off. It has just been introduced from another platform. Why don’t they mention how smoothly the various middleware apps work under Windows? Has Microsoft stopped writing the OS specifically to cripple other vendors’ middleware?

  2. Somehow, someway, something’s got to be George Bush’s fault in all of this, I mean, it’s just gotta be his fault. It’s also cloudy at my home today, which is probably due to global warming, which is all George Bush fault as well. I also work on a Dell at my job, which is also George Bushs fault… Man, once “Her Thighness” takes over the world will just be a perfect tax me up the rear paradise!

    Light up them flame throwers and begin the carnage!

  3. > It was not an attempt to roll back Microsoft’s monopoly in operating system software…

    Vista will do more to “roll back” the Microsoft OS monopoly that anything the U.S. Justice Department has done.

  4. “It was not an attempt to roll back Microsoft’s monopoly in operating system software,” Romano reports.”

    Oh I see, that’s a different issue – got it – I think.

    What I wonder is, how much did MS have to pay for this little song and dance. Even with billions you would think that MS would eventually run out of money.

  5. Weird metrics:
    Citing Safari as evidence of competition in Windows middleware is a bit off. It has just been introduced from another platform. Why don’t they mention how smoothly the various middleware apps work under Windows? Has Microsoft stopped writing the OS specifically to cripple other vendors’ middleware?

    Safari is available for Windows.

  6. Yes, Safari is available for Windows. It has just been introduced. It has been available for only a few months. It is not a new browser but has been introduced from another platform (OSX) where it developed. So, is Safari a good metric for how middleware friendly Microsoft is?

  7. Were the Feds serious about weakening Microsoft’s hold it would have opened up its own procurement. But while Justice had them in court, they were mandating Windows and Office in their own contracts. Even today some of our in house web sites will pop up an error advising they only work with Internet Explorer. Waivers to install alternatives like Firefox are denied.

    As it happens, by limiting the scope of the trial, the Government was limited in its penalties. The new administration came in with its “sweetheart” deal to settle the case, and all that was left was a monitoring scheme. Caldera potentially could have done much more damage because they had a mountain of dirt against Microsoft. THAT was a trial I would have paid to see. But they settled two weeks before trial. Caldera got a few hundred million, but was required to destroy that dirt so no one else could use it.

    But after all the billions Microsoft has paid in settlements, the threats remain. The biggest? Apple.

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